Sometimes we struggle with telling people, “No.” We don’t want to seem selfish or ungodly. We don’t want to disappoint or upset people. But there are times when it is critical that we can give a firm, “No,” to people.
The goal is, we should be able to say, “Yes,” when it is appropriate and good for us to do so, and we should be able to say, “No,” when it is appropriate and good for us to do so.
If we always say, “Yes,” that is a problem. If we always say, “No,” that is also a problem. There should be balance so that we have godly discernment and can wisely determine when to say yes and when to say no. Ultimately, let’s always say yes to God and no to anything that is not of Him!
Let’s Be Honest about Our Yes and No:
Let’s mean yes when we say yes. Let’s mean no when we say no. It is not a good thing to say yes and resent other people because we feel like they should know we really didn’t want to do something. Let’s not expect others to read our minds – but answer in simple, straightforward, and vulnerable ways.
- I like that.
- I don’t want to do that.
- I would prefer to do this, instead.
- No, please stop!
- Yes, I would love to do that.
How to Say No:
We can say, “No,” respectfully, gently, and clearly:
- No, thank you.
- I’m sorry, I can’t.
- That is not going to work for me.
- I’m going to have to say, “no.” But thanks so much for the offer!
- That would go against God’s Word, so I am not able to participate.
I have found there are some really simple principles that make this much easier.
- I don’t owe an explanation to people about why I say, “no.”
- The more I try to explain myself, the more the person who is asking me for something will shoot down my reasons.
- If they continue to press, I just continue to repeat myself respectfully, gently, but firmly. “I wish I could, but I just can’t right now.”
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. t teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14
Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matt. 5:37
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Some times when “No” is appropriate:
- Someone is asking you to clearly sin or go against God’s Word, even if that person is in a position of authority in your life.
- When anything sinful is a temptation or anything that is clearly the invitation of the enemy.
- When your sinful flesh is trying to convince you to do something.
- If my husband is not on board with something someone else is asking me to do (in general – although there can be some exceptions).
- If I would have to put this other thing above God, my husband, or my family.
- When someone is clearly sinning against you – there are certainly times you may need to lovingly, humbly, respectfully confront them.
- When something would violate your conscience may be a time to say no – after praying carefully about it and studying God’s Word.
- When you are not actually able to do what the person has asked – either because of time restrictions, physical limitations, financial limitations, or other reasons.
- When someone is asking you to do something you really don’t want to do. If a friend tries to pressure you to go skydiving, ride a roller coaster, or even go out to dinner – and you truly don’t want to go – there are times when it is wise to thank them for the offer but to kindly refuse. Of course, there may be exceptions to this. Sometimes you may not feel like going, but you may really enjoy yourself if you make yourself go. Or God may prompt you to go so you can be a blessing to someone. So – use wise discernment.
- When saying, “Yes,” to this person would require you to say, “No,” to something more important. If your boss wants you to work on Sundays, but you really want to be able to go to church every Sunday, you may decide to decline the Sunday hours so that you can say, “Yes,” to being at church.
- If you are going to resent the person if you say, “Yes,” there can be times it is better to decline. If someone asks you to watch their children 5 days per week for 3 hours per day for free, and you realize that this is an overcommitment for you and that you will feel bitter about it later – it can be better to respectfully decline the offer or to renegotiate so that you can give without resentment. Doing things for other people with resentment in our hearts is sin. We either need to be able to get rid of the resentment or we may need to be more careful about what we agree to do for others.
- When saying, “Yes,” would end up filling up your schedule so much that you don’t have time for God.
- When something would cause you to be a poor steward of your time, abilities, your health, your body, your walk with Christ, your soul, your finances, or God’s calling on your life. (Of course, sometimes God will call us to die to self – so this requires His wisdom and discernment.)
- Someone is trying to hurt you or commit a crime against you. This requires a very firm, “No,” and you may need to literally fight to get away.
- When you have prayed about something and you are very sure that this thing is not of God and is not God’s will in your life.
- When something is a good thing, but is going to take too much time and isn’t in line with God’s assignment for you in that season. If the nominating committee at church asks you to work in the nursery, but you have a huge heart for teenage girls and you know that babies are not your gift – you may want to pray about the offer and then say that you would really prefer to work with the teenage girls. Sometimes, God may call us to do something that we are not as gifted to do – but many times God will use us in our area of giftedness. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you have to automatically say, “Yes,” Pray about it. Seek God’s will and wisdom. If you are hearing His voice clearly, follow His lead. If you cannot clearly hear God’s voice, let me know and we will talk about that together.
Some times when “Yes” is appropriate:
- When you are saying, “Yes,” to God and to anything He has for you even if it is scary – whether His Spirit is prompting you or His Word is directing you. (If you are confused about whether God is speaking to you or not, please seek godly counsel.)
- When you know that God has a particular ministry or task for you to do – even if you don’t feel like doing it.
- When someone in a position of authority in your life asks you to do something that is not sinful – even if you don’t feel like doing it. If a police officer pulls you over – cooperate with him/her. Be respectful. Honor and obey what the officer asks you to do – unless the officer asks you to do something immoral, unethical, or illegal. If your boss asks you to do something that is not against God’s Word, honor your boss’s leadership. Of course, if you have concerns, you may respectfully share them in appropriate ways.
- When you know an opportunity is from God.
- When something would help you be a better steward of your life, your health, your body, your time, your finances, your soul, and God’s calling on your life.
- When you want to do something and you are sure that you will not dishonor God by participating in that activity.
- When this particular activity is clearly in line with God’s will and His priorities for your life.
- When you believe God desires you to do something in order to pour His love and blessing into the lives of others and you are giving freely without strings attached and without resentment.
What have you learned about saying yes vs saying no? You are welcome to share!